I’ve read a few things lately that I never really thought about and seem to explain why the readership on this blog has remained fairly low. The obvious culprits are my inconsistent writing habit, the fact that I’m fairly long-winded, and am just a horrible, horrible self-promoter. Some of those things I have tried to correct with limited success, some of them I just don’t have the time to address properly.
But I was reading this post by RBC’s Keith Humphreys wherein he quotes himself from a previous blog post there in a sentence that really stands out to me:
One of the things I have observed is that many political/public policy blogs are comfort food for a pool of regular readers. If you create a site called “immigrantsaredestroyingourcountry.com” or “legalizecocainenow.com” or “Allrepublicansareevilmonsters.com” you will over time accrue a readership, potentially a large one. Your role as a blogger is to repeat, in a thousand different ways, the message captured in your blog title. Your amen corner will then comment enthusiastically, over and over, in post after post that you are oh so right about what you think.
Now, this isn’t a public policy blog, although I do sometimes talk about public policy-related issues. But this is a “beer blog” or a “liquor blog” and most blogs of this type tend to be written by evangelists. Fans of craft beer or good bourbon who want everyone else to also be fans of craft beer or good bourbon. They tend to be industry cheerleaders. In this world, brewers are rock star and distributors of craft beer are local educators and heroes. Liquor should be sold 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to anyone who’s big enough to carry it out of the store. Our enemies are moderationists and temperance groups, some churches, and politicians who dare mention excise tax increases.
But that is not what this blog does. As a matter of fact, my oppositional nature compels me to speak frequently of the positive impact of excise tax increases and the negative social impact of alcohol addiction. If I have just read an article on the evils of marketing, I want to defend marketing. I want to defend culture and psychology and I want to defend selling Pliny the Elder on Ebay and along the way inform the world that that the beer business rockstar Stones, for all their business success, don’t seem to understand basic economics. I want to defend Untappd one day and lambast beer tickers the next.
This isn’t a cheerleader’s blog. This is a blog for introspection, for rational thought, for honest self-appraisal. It is about the drinking life and it’s largely celebratory. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be honest. I still love the drinking culture even though I see its limitations, its weaknesses, its faults, its harms. I think a mature people should be able to have mature conversations about the things they love, and to me that means weighing both sides outloud, in public, in front of you. It isn’t enough to know that alcohol is a killer and a contributor to much criminal activity. I think we have to say that whenever we talk about it’s good qualities. An accurate appraisal of a rose bush cannot forget the thorns.
I don’t read cheerleader blogs. I’m not a choir that’s interested in being preached to, so I don’t read blogs that cheerlead things I already love. Nor am I interested in being preached at by bloggers who are cheerleading the other side. I know “the enemy” often has good, rational reasons to like the things they like, but you won’t find them on cheerleader blogs. So I seek out contrarians on both sides of any argument. I want to be convinced. And I want to convince you…of something. I want to try and take you from wherever you are, to wherever I am, but that presupposes you aren’t already where I want to take you. I want to find people who disagree with me and convince them to think about it differently. I’m not interested in changing minds or opinions per se. But I do want you to see the merits in another way of thinking about old subjects.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I think that my flaw is “I’m too honest” and that’s why my readership hasn’t exploded. I mostly blame all the other things which are just bad blog etiquette, but it certainly doesn’t help that I tend to be so damned contrary.
*If you ever read a question in a headline, the answer is “no.”